Blackout - Chapter 7
Published Mar 8, 2013

Written By



Page 1 / 27


After tragically losing her best friend and sister, Carolyn has found solace in her co-worker, Sean. But as her guilt and pain stack up, she begins to suffer blackouts again, and this time Sean is there to witness them. Carolyn wants to believe that her secret died with Tina and is determined to keep it from Sean. But how much is she prepared to sacrifice to keep this part of herself hidden?


After tragically losing her best friend and sister, Carolyn has found solace in her co-worker, Sean. But as her guilt and pain stack up, she begins to suffer blackouts again, and this time Sean is there to witness them. Carolyn wants to believe that her secret died with Tina and is determined to keep it from Sean. But how much is she prepared to sacrifice to keep this part of herself hidden?
I don't know why, but I've always been prone to nightmares. Most have been of me as a little girl, lying in my bed, terrified of something coming toward me in the dark. The smell of mangoes makes my stomach turn. The dream always ends before I find out what I'm scared of.

Since the day I realized that I am to blame for the fire that killed Tina, she has replaced the unknown terror that haunts my dreams. It always starts out happy. I'm eating onion soup with Tina at my kitchen table. We're sitting in silence, which almost never happened in real life, but still I'm content.
I pick up the mail and read the paternity letter. I feel the familiar dread in the pit of my stomach, and I look for Tina, but she never comes to comfort me. Then I drop the rest of the mail on the stove and it bursts into flames. And then everything around me is burning and I can't find my sister. I know I should get out, but I can't leave her. And finally, I see a silhouette moving toward me through the flames. She is coming right through the fire without flinching. She gets closer and I see that she's not the Tina I knew. She is just a shadow, and she is angry.

"Why, Carolyn, WHY?!" I try to step back, but the flames surround me now. She comes closer, pointing her finger in my face. Her red eyes burn into me. "It should have been you! IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU!!"

I cry and beg her forgiveness. "Tina, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to! I would do anything to take it back!"
"Anything?" she rasps.

It's then that I realize she's holding a baby. It's my baby. "Not that, anything but that!"

I reach out instinctively to my child. But in that instant, she vanishes with the baby in her arms and I scream, on and on, with no one to hear me. The fire disappears with her, and I am alone in my blackened kitchen. All alone.
After these dreams, I wake up shaking, soaked in sweat, my heart hammering in my ears. The baby has her foot in her favorite spot in my ribs and I'm comforted by the familiar ache. And I tell myself that Tina would never try to hurt me that way, or even blame me for the accident. It doesn't matter though, because I do.

It's safe to say I'm not getting much sleep these days.
Sean has gone back to his own house. I should probably be glad for that, because he left before the nightmares started. He has already seen enough of my freakishness. He comes over most evenings after work, though. We watch TV or play video games together. He has full conversations with the baby that make me laugh. He talks to her like a real person, not like the baby-talk gibberish Tina used to spout.

Most days he cooks for us, but sometimes I try, too. It's a comfortable kind of companionship; he keeps a friendly distance from me. But sometimes I still catch him watching me, that little wrinkle between his eyebrows.
Of course I've also gone back to work. I've found that keeping my mind occupied makes the days much more bearable. For hours at a time, I can forget about what I did. Until it's time to go home. I walk into my house and see the scorch marks on my wall, and the crushing weight is on my shoulders again. I flip through our family photo albums and wallow in guilt until Sean comes over to distract me some more. Tonight is one of those nights. I rub my aching back after a long day at work while he has a chat with the baby.

"I think you're wearing your poor mommy out. She makes me slave in the kitchen for her because she's so tired! But you wanna know a secret?" His voice drops to a stage whisper. "I think it's all an excuse to get me to cook for her. And to come over in the first place."

I pretend to pout. "Aww. You mean you only come over here because you feel sorry for me?"

He ignores me and addresses the baby. "Of course, the real reason is because it's just so entertaining to watch her waddle around with you."

He ducks out of the way, laughing, before I can shove him.
After we eat, I stretch out on the couch with my feet on his lap and we watch our favorite show together. I'm laughing out loud at the show when I notice him staring at me. He smiles. "You have the cutest laugh."

I hide my face in a pillow while I try to stifle my laughing and snorting. He pulls me up next to him and I curl up to his side. We watch the rest of the show cuddled up like that. He's warm and I fit so perfectly, like it was made just for me. The show ends, but neither of us move to get up. My bladder is starting to complain, but it feels so good under the safety of his arm.
He strokes my hair and I turn my head to look at him. He's so close. He tips my chin up and brushes his lips against mine. He pauses, his eyes watching me, waiting for my permission. When I don't pull away, he buries his hand in my hair and kisses me, long and deep. I feel a strange stirring inside as he pushes me back onto the couch, a feeling both strange and familiar at the same time. And then the tingling numbness shoots through my arms to my fingertips. I wake up and find myself tangled in my sheet. I kick my feet out of it and make a mad dash for the bathroom. I swear I have to pee every half hour these days. After I wash my hands and turn off the faucet, I hear something. It sounds like the TV. I guess I must have left it on. I stumble into the living room and reach for the remote.

I drop the remote and spin around to find Sean sitting on the loveseat.

"Jeez Sean, you scared me half to death." I squint up at the clock and see that it's almost midnight. "What are you still doing here?"

He scratches the stubble on his chin and gives me a funny look. "Umm.. you asked me to sleep over."

"No I--"

Then I notice that I'm wearing his t-shirt, and he's sitting on the couch in his boxers. It's the worst possible time, but I can't help admiring how gorgeous he is. It doesn't feel like it's the first time I've seen him, though. I know all the contours of his arms and chest by heart. Oh God, what did I do? My mind struggles to remember the evening. We were watching TV, and then we kissed, and then.. nothing. I don't remember anything else until I woke up tangled in the sheets. I'm pretty sure I can fill in the rest of the blanks. The worst part is, I'm not sorry that it happened. I just wish I could remember it.

I swallow hard and try to sound normal. "Oh. Yeah. I forgot. I'm just really tired," I say, smiling feebly. I turn around to head back to my bedroom.
"Carolyn! Wait. What's going on with you?"

I stop walking, but don't turn around. "I just woke up really groggy and confused. That's all." I start walking again but he grabs my arm to stop me.

"That's not all, Carolyn. This is happening way too often."

I close my eyes, wondering just how many times it has happened.
He turns me around to face him.

"Look, I don't know how to --" He sighs. "Ok. Do you remember that day I brought you the flower, and you got angry because you saw me out with someone the night before?"

Yeah, I remember. I'm getting angry all over again. Is he going to apologize for that now?

"And then that night, when you came to my apartment, you were so different. So aggressive."

My anger slips away as his words sink in, but he keeps talking.

"The next day at the office, you wouldn't even look at me. Every time I tried to talk to you, you ran away."
"I didn't understand what happened. I thought maybe I'd done something to upset you, or maybe you regretted the night before. So I left you alone to cool off. And then two nights later, when you showed up again, you practically shoved me to the bedroom. And the next day, you were cold again." "So I tried calling you at home. I left messages. You never answered. I knew I should tell you to stop, but every time you came over, I just.."

He looks down and runs his hand through his hair. "And then you got that promotion and moved across town and it's just like you vanished until I ran into you at the cafe that day."

He finally stops talking and looks back up at me, waiting for some kind of explanation. I'm trying to swallow, but my mouth might as well be full of cotton balls. What am I supposed to tell him? I suppose it's better for him to think I'm just using him than to know the truth. "Sorry if you don't like it. That's just the kind of girl I am."
I step around him to head back to my room. He slams his hand onto the wall in front of me, blocking my path. He's so angry he's shaking. "NO...YOU'RE...NOT!" he screams.

I shrink back from him. I've never seen him like this before. "Sean," I say softly. "You're scaring me."

He drops his arm and lets his breath out in a long, ragged sigh. "I'm sorry. But no more running, Carolyn. You need to be honest with me. Tell me about the mangoes."
A sick feeling rises in the pit of my stomach at just the mention of them. He takes my hand and pulls me back to the love seat to sit down.

I swallow down the gag and try to sound like I'm not lying. "What about them? I've always hated them. And I'm allergic to them. Extremely."

He looks me straight in the eye and says, "No. You're not."

My face burns. I hate being caught in a lie. I pick at a piece of lint on the couch so I don't have to look at him. "How would you know?"
He leans back against the couch. "You really don't know?"

Out of habit, a lie is on the tip of my tongue, but I have a feeling I won't be able to talk my way out of this one. I shake my head silently.

"That first Thursday I was back at work, I came over in the evening. You didn't answer the door. You had been so down, I was worried that something happened to you when I left you alone all day. I was dialing your cell phone when you pulled into the driveway. I ran over to the car to make sure you were ok, but you popped out with two bags in your hands and the biggest smile on your face." He pauses for a second. "Do you remember any of this?"
Again, I consider lying, but I'm so terrible at it and I can't fill in any of the details. "No," I whisper.

He nods as if he expected this. "We went into the house and you set down these two bags full of mangoes. I didn't think you'd ever eat them all before they went bad, but you laughed and said they were your favorite food in the whole world. And for two days, you ate them day and night."

I'm sick to my stomach. This can't be happening.

He continues. "You were acting like a different person. I was worried, but you seemed to be doing so much better, I didn't want to say anything. And then.. I stayed here the next two nights."

My eyes dart to the couch. He answers my unspoken question, smiling slightly. "Not on the couch."

I guess I should have expected that.

"And then I got up on Saturday to make you something special, but you were confused when you came out. You thought it was still Thursday--"
I stand up, unable to look at him. I can't take listening to this anymore, knowing how he must see me. "That's enough. I remember that."

He nods. "I think.. maybe you should see someone, Carolyn. A professional."

I've had enough. I feel like this is my secret with Tina and he's violated some sacred bond. Besides, I need some time alone to think, and I definitely don't need some quack doctor to tell me I'm broken. I already know that.

"I think you should leave now, Sean."
He stands up too, but he doesn't move toward the door. His eyes are pleading. "Please Carolyn. Don't push me away. I just want to help you." He reaches up to stroke my face. "Let me take care of you."

Suddenly I'm filled with fear, followed by white hot rage. "I don't need ANYONE to TAKE CARE OF ME!" I give him a hard shove. I catch him by surprise and he stumbles backwards.


He starts to say something, but I can't hear anything over the angry static in my head.

Walking backwards, still pleading, he stumbles over the threshold and I slam the door in his face and lock it. He's pounding on the door, calling my name.
"Get off of my property, Sean, or I'm calling the police."


"I'm dialing now."

"Ok, ok! I'm leaving. Take it easy." He's swearing as he stomps off to his car in his underwear.

I lean against the door and listen to his car door slam, and then the car screeches out of the driveway. The adrenaline is fading and I start to feel sick to my stomach.
I turn around and run to the bathroom, barely making it before I lose my dinner. I stay sitting on the bathroom floor for a few minutes to catch my breath.

Why did I react like that? What's wrong with me? I don't know why that made me so angry. What's so bad about having someone to take care of me?

I put my hand on the floor to push myself up. It's cold and wet. Great. My toilet must be leaking again, and I just kicked out my handyman.

I manage to pull myself to my feet, and I feel a cold breeze on my legs. My legs are wet. The water... it's my water.. No, it's too soon! The baby can't be coming yet!
My insides twist into an agonizing knot. She's coming whether I'm ready for her or not.

When I can breathe again, I stumble into the kitchen to the phone. I need someone to get me to the hospital. I have no idea who to call.

There's no one. No one to drive me, no one to meet me at the hospital, no one to coach me through labor.

And now I realize that I've finally done it. I've driven away the last person who really cared about me. I am really, truly alone.

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agreene17May 10, 2013

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